UAB Blazers

FAYETTEVILLE, AR - OCTOBER 25:  Head Coach Bill Clark of the UAB Blazers claps for his team as the run onto the field during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on October 25, 2014 in Fayetteville, Arkansas.  The Razorbacks defeated the Blazers 45-17.  (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
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UAB unveils plans for covered practice facility, football operations center

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UAB football is back, and soon the Blazers will have the construction cranes to prove it.

On Friday the Blazers announced a title sponsorship to a new $22.5 million football operations center that will include offices, meeting and film rooms, locker rooms, weight rooms, training facility and practice fields — including one covered by a pavilion.

“The impact this generous sponsorship has already had and will have on our program cannot be overstated,” head coach Bill Clark said in a statement. “It allowed us to expand the scope of the project to build the facility we need, and it will greatly accelerate our competitiveness on the field and on the recruiting trail. We will be proud to practice every day under the Legacy name, which will serve as a reminder that we are fighting for a community that is behind us.”

Legacy Community Federal Credit Union is footing the bill for title sponsorship at $4.2 million spread over 20 years. In a nice bit of synergy, the bank was founded by UAB employees for UAB employees.

“While this most recent sponsorship will produce an immediate impact for UAB Football, it is really just the next logical extension of the longstanding relationship between Legacy and UAB,” said Legacy President and CEO Joe McGee. “Since UAB had the vision to charter us, and is the largest employer and most dynamic economic driver in the state, we believe an investment in UAB will yield returns for Legacy members and for the entire community.”

The plan is for the facility to be up and running in time for the Blazers to re-join Conference USA in the fall of 2017.

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(Renderings courtesy of UAB athletics)

College football continues growing at multiple levels

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 04:  A detail of a Nike official NCAA size football as it sits in the end zone while the West Virginia Mountaineers stretchon the field prior to playing against the Clemson Tigers during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 4, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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This fall college football will be played on more campuses than ever before thanks to the addition of five programs, including two at the NCAA Division II level.

According to the National Football Foundation, the addition of Cincinnati Christian University, Davenport University (Grand Rapids, Mich.), Morthland College (West Frankfort, Ill.), the University of Texas of the Permian Basin (Odessa) and the University of West Florida (Pensacola), there will be 774 college football teams in 2016, the most on record.

West Florida and UT-Permian Basin are in the NCAA’s Division II while CCU and Davenport are in the NAIA and Morthland College’s affiliation is TBA.

The schools come from three distinct regions of the country, including football hotbeds of Florida, Texas and Ohio.

If the name and town of the newest college football program in Texas ring a bell, there’s good reason. Odessa is the home of the Permian Panthers, the high school program immortalized in H.G. Bissinger’s 1990 book, Friday Night Lights: A Town, a Team and a Dream.

Per the NFF, three more programs are set to come online next year, including the return of UAB as a member of Conference USA in the FBS.

“With more than one million high school students playing football and more than 70,000 spots on college teams, there is plenty of room for expansion,” said NFF chairman Archie Manning in a statement. “Many of these colleges clearly recognize that football can play an important role in encouraging students to continue their educations by enticing them to enroll.”

Last year saw the addition of four new programs, including FCS members East Tennessee State and Kennesaw State (Georgia).

In all, 42 programs have launched at various levels since 2010.

As revenues rise in Power 5, C-USA sees revenue in freefall

HUNTINGTON, WV - DECEMBER 06: Rakeem Cato #12 of the Marshall Thundering Herd and head coach Doc Holliday celebrate defeating the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs 26-23 at Joan C. Edwards Stadium after the Conference USA championship game on December 6, 2014 in Huntington, West Virginia.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Power 5 conferences have never been richer. That doesn’t mean business is easy for everyone in college sports, though.

According to a report from Harry Minium of the Virginian-Pilot, Conference USA is in line to receive $2.8 million — total — from its 2016-17 television contracts. Keep in mind Texas will earn more than $40 million on its own next year, with the entirety of the Big Ten and SEC soon to follow.

Conference USA received $9.95 million in fees from CBS Sports Network and Fox Sports this year and another $6.15 million in exit fees from schools leaving for the American Athletic Conference, but each of those revenue streams is set to dry by the fall.

Due to incredibly unfortunate timing, C-USA had to return to the negotiating table at a time sports networks are in between the bubble of the cable explosion and whatever comes next in the digital world. The result is C-USA returns to ESPN and its fire hose of much-needed exposure, but at a substantially reduced rate. The league will also be found on CBS Sports Network, beIN Sports and the American Sports Network.

“Right now, the television market is horrible,” C-USA commissioner Judy McLeod said. “The pool of money that’s there is going to the big guys.”

According to Minium, C-USA’s $200,000 per school media rights distribution ranks ninth in FBS, trailing each of the Power 5 schools along with the AAC ($2 million per), the Mountain West ($1.7 million) and the MAC ($670,000) but ahead of the Sun Belt ($100,000).

UAB’s DC steps down, Bill Clark stays in-house for replacement

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For the second time in a month, Bill Clark has been forced to replace an assistant coach.  And, just like last time, he didn’t have to go far to fill it.

According to al.com, Duwan Walker has stepped down from his post as the Blazers’ defensive coordinator.  Walker walked away from the job to enter private business of some sort.

Walker and Clark had coached together since 1999.  Clark hired Walker in January of 2014, a little less than a year before the university disbanded the football program.  Walker remained on after the school reinstated the sport, but, a month or so after the end of spring practice, has decided to walk away from the profession.

“It’s bittersweet but I couldn’t be happier for him,” Clark told the website. “Personally, you can’t replace a guy like Duwan.”

Clark will try to replace Walker, though, as the head coach has named David Reeves as the coordinator’s successor.  Reeves will also continue serving as the Blazers’ defensive line coach.

Less than a week ago, Clark announced that Trey Clark had been promoted to offensive line coach.  Clark replaced Mike Bennefield, who stepped down in mid-May to spend more time with his family.

UAB stays in-house for new line coach, adds USF transfer, former OU Sooners signee to roster

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The UAB football program may not be returning to the playing field until 2017, but that doesn’t mean the Blazers aren’t making news.

While not officially official, al.com has reported that Bill Clark has promoted Trey Clark (no relation to the head coach) to offensive line coach.  The past two seasons, Clark served as the line coach at Jacksonville State before moving on to UAB as the head strength & conditioning coach.

Clark will replace Mike Bennefield, who stepped down in mid-May to spend more time with his family.

In addition to the coaching news, Bill Clark also made a couple of additions to his Blazers roster — linebacker Nick Holman and offensive lineman Natrell Curtis.

In late April, Holman announced that he would be transferring from USF and continuing his collegiate playing career elsewhere.  Exiting the spring, Holman was listed as a backup weakside linebacker, which likely played a role in his decision.

Holman came to USF as a three-star member of the Bulls’ 2014 recruiting class, rated as the No. 31 player at any position in the state of Alabama. After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, Holman played in 11 games in 2015.

At UAB, Holman will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2017.

Curtis had spent the past two seasons at an Arizona junior college.  Originally a member of Oklahoma’s 2014 recruiting class, Curtis was a three-star recruit who was named an Army All-American.  He never made it to the Sooners, however, as he went the JUCO route before the start of summer camp.

Beginning next year, Curtis will have three years to play two seasons.